It’s Saturday afternoon at Lollapalooza, and the Haim sisters – Este, Alana and Danielle – are sitting backstage. They’ve been in Chicago since Wednesday, but the sibling rockers, whose music has drawn rave reviews from the Strokes, Rihanna and Mumford & Sons, have had little time to take in their surroundings. “What’s a day off?” says Este, 27, the bassist, eldest and most crass member of the group. She pauses, realizing that may have come off a bit well, complain-y and corrects herself. “Ya know what? I don’t give a fuck,” she adds. “I will do this until my tits are at my knees.”
Why wouldn’t she want to? Haim are currently one of the hottest young rock acts on the planet. (So hot, in fact, that Lollapalooza thought it wise to push back their Saturday set to later in the day.) Their harmony-laced sound is drawing comparisons to Fleetwood Mac, Wilson Phillips and yes, even TLC. Yet while many groups would be quick to capitalize on such of-the-moment hype – the sort of relentessly positive chatter that’s surrounded Haim ever since they released their critically praised Forever EP in February of last year – the trio made a point to take their time perfecting their forthcoming debut album.
“Everyone was like, ‘Are you gonna put it out? Are you gonna do it?'” chatty guitarist-keyboardist Alana, the youngest member of the trio at 21, says of the band’s forthcoming debut album, Days Are Gone. “It took a lot of strength for us to say we wanted to wait. People dangle a lot of stuff in front of you…there were times where we were like, ‘Shit, we should just put it out already.'”
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But now with the album having an official release date – September 30th, to be exact – the Haim girls are more than ready for it to be unleashed upon the public. “I think if we could we’d put it out tomorrow,” Este says of the 11-track album, which the group recorded over the better of a year in Los Angeles during gaps from their non-stop touring schedule. The group credits album delays both to their heavy touring regiment as well as their obsessive streak in the studio. “We’re pretty much the biggest perfectionists,” offers Alana. To prove this point, she estimates the band recorded their new single “The Wire” upwards of 20 times. The sisters all agree though that singer-lead guitarist Danielle, the quietist of the lot – she barely muttered a word during our entire time together – and a former touring guitarist for Cee Lo Green and the Strokes‘ Julian Casablancas, is the production guru of the group and the bandmember who sweats every last detail.
Days Are Gone, produced by Ariel Rechtshaid (Usher, Vampire Weekend) and James Ford (Florence and the Machine, Arctic Monkeys), is an album years in the making. Since their first show as a group, which took place on July 7th, 2007, Haim have been gigging extensively. “The first five years we just played every show we could play in L.A.,” Alana recalls. “All we wanted to do was play. Then finally we realized we were playing too much.” The sisters credit Casablancas specifcially for advising them that playing too many live shows is not the answer. To that end, the girls have now been more selective when lining up future tours. Still, as Alana explains, it was hard to turn down opening-slot offers from groups they love, specifically Florence and the Machine and Mumford & Sons. “They take care of me like I’m their little sister,” Alana says of the Mumfords, with whom Haim again will be playing support for later this year.
Ask the girls to describe specific tracks on Days Are Gone and they quickly fire back: “If I told you I’d have to kill you,” Este deadpans. Wait, really? No clues at all? “The thing is,” she explains, “you can ask me anything about anything and I’ll tell you…except for our music. The record is something we’re tight-lipped about.” Haim do reveal that the album contains a healthy dose of the songs they’ve been playing in their live sets – “Falling,” “Forever,” “Don’t Save Me” – in addition to, as Alana says, “a lot of new jams.” What little they’ll reveal about the new material is that the album’s title track was co-written with Jessie Ware and Kid Harpoon.
Rolling Stone had a chance to take the new album for a spin, however. And it’s every bit worth the wait. There’s palpable maturity in the lyrics: On “If I Could Change Your Mind,” Danielle is a self-admitted newbie at the whole love thing (“I’ve never done this before/drove a million miles/back when you were mine/I was too young to know you were the one to find”); later she’s brushing off a former lover on “Honey & I,” then flat-out giving dude the cold shoulder (“Honey, I’m not your honey-pie,”) over a ripping electric guitar lick and a bass wobble generally reserved for sweaty dance clubs on the pop-friendly “My Song 5.” Sonically, the LP is a highly textural affair, from the 8-bit keyboard clatter on the title track to the lush, Eighties-style synths that sizzle throughout “Running If You Call My Name.”
Following their Lollapalooza gig, Haim, who have been playing music together nearly their entire lives – they were in a family band with their parents called Rockinhaim as kids – are headed overseas for a string of European festivals before returning Stateside later this month for the Budweiser Made in America fest, in Philadelphia. Their parents accompanied them to recent shows in Australia and Japan, but are now heading back to Southern California for work. “It’s kind of sad,” Este says of their departure. “But really not.” Adds Alana: “All day my mom has been crying – “I’m not going to see you!” I’m like, “Mom. we’ll back in two weeks.””